This past August, I went to more baseball games–4–than I had attended over the past 5 years. It was split evenly between the Los Angeles Dodgers and your Anaheim Angels of Anaheim, each visit to the stadium also split between the fancy areas (the Diamond Club at Angels Stadium, the seats right next to the visitor's dugout at Dodgers Stadium) and the cheap seats (the right-field madhouse with Los Doyers, upper deck next to right field with los Serafines). And at each trip, I've been called a traitor–by Dodgers fans for supposedly favoring the Angels by going to their games, and by Angels fans for daring to go up to Los Angeles and betray our Orange County homeland.
No one believes me when I tell them I actually care for both teams. I want the Angels and Dodgers to do good, if only so I don't have to hear my friends and cousins (equally split in their followings) whine about their team and trash-talk the other. I follow both teams, and hate only individual antagonists (the McCourts in Los Angeles, the Albert Pujols/Josh Hamilton/Vernon Wells/Gary Matthews, Jr. disasters orchestrated by Angels owner Arte Moreno). So while I'm glad the Dodgers are having a great season after years of disappointments, I'm furious that the Angels are sinking due to Moreno's ineptitude after years of brilliance. And when you have a disaster like the one happening in Anaheim, you start to realize there are actual, legitimate reasons why Dodgers fans not only exist in Orange County–they might actually be increasing.
5. The Whole Winning Thing
Yesterday, I overheard on the Angels' television broadcast that Bobby Knoop was going to be inducted into the Angels' Hall of Fame. I remember Knoop because in 1987 (or was it 1988?), the Angels offered an awesome giveaway: a book featuring all the Topps baseball cards of every single Halos who ever donned the uniform. The Knoop name stuck with me, and as I got older, I realized what a good guy he was: three-time Gold Glove winner at second base, longtime coach, overall nice man.
Nothing against Knoop, but that the Angels induct nice guys into their Hall of Fame instead of, you know, actual Hall of Famers reflects each organization's expectations of winning. Sure, the Angels have had a better record than the Dodgers since their 2002 World Series win, with more division titles, more playoff victories, more everything–and it still doesn't begin to catch up to the winning tradition the Dodgers established upon reaching the West Coast. That legacy explains why the Dodgers historically outdrew the Angels, historically sold more merchandise, historically beat the Angels in everything. Winning begets winning–and can you blame OC residents for going with a team that expects excellence instead of one that continues to act like it accidentally falls into it every couple of years?
4. The Ballpark Experience
Don't believe the Know Nothings who always bring up the Bryan Stow beating for not wanting to visit Dodgers Stadium; nowadays, there are muchos LAPD and security on patrol. And, as I always like to point out to said Know Nothings, there have actually been more killings at Angels Stadium (3) since 2002 than at Dodgers Stadium (1).
More on the fans in a bit–let's focus on the ballpark. Dodgers Stadium is an icon, from the palm trees to the organ player, and the experience has only gotten better with all the recent improvements. I wasn't around to experience the original Angels Stadium before it was turned into a multipurpose concrete hull for the Los Angeles Rams, and all I've known about the stadium since is what Disney glued on: tackiness, from the faux rocks in center field to the hideous helmets and bats in front of the box office to the club music before games that sounds like a stream of KIIS-FM 102.7. At Dodgers Stadium, you go to see a game; at Angels Stadium, it's the worst of the IE and OC architectural sensibilities, surburbia meets Roller Coaster Tycoon.
3. The Home-Viewing Experience
Dodgers: Vin Scully for English; Jaime Jarrín for Spanish. Angels: they once thought it smart to employ Rex Hudler and Steve Physioc as announcers for over a decade. Scully and Jarrín–both Hall of Famers, both the best-ever in their fields–will hopefully be around a couple more years; who announces for the Angels now?
2. The Fans
Every time I went to a Dodgers game, I encountered a passionate fan base that knew the game, that talked trash on the opponents and laughed at bon mots thrown by others, and overall knew their shit. Every time I went to an Angels game, I encountered a wake–and while the mood in the stands this year is understandably glum, it seemed people were more attuned to each other than the game, and those who were paying attention didn't want to get distracted by attempts at camaraderie around them.
I won't cite the frequent dismissal that Dodgers fans have for Angels fans–that most of them are bandwagoneers (ers?). I know many lifelong Angels fans–hell, our own Gabriel San Román is going to offer a retort to this listicle. And Reason editor Matt Welch is another one, even though he grew up in Lakewood. But as an outsider to the Angels and Dodgers fan base, I find the Dodgers fans more enjoyable, more knowledgeable, rowdier–all attributes that baseball fans want in their fellow fans when they watch a game, no?
1. The Owners
This is the most surprising development over the past decade. The Dodgers were the ones condemned to FOX, then the McCourts, no doubt as karma for kicking out all those Mexicans from Chavez Ravine decades ago. Then, out of nowhere, an ownership group that included part-time OC resident Magic Johnson saved the franchise. As long as Magic is around, happy days will follow the Dodgers and their fan base, which will only attract more OCers as the years go on.
And more OCers will be apt to defect to the Dodgers as long as Arte Moreno is owner–a stunning development, and one I never thought would happen. For years, Moreno did all the right things: cut beer prices, signed the best players in the game, walked the stadium and asked fans what he could do to improve their experience. But now, he's living up the the Angry Arte nickname that former (current?) Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers gave him. His signing off on multimillion-dollar contracts for over-the-hill players has taken Halos fans back to the nightmare of the 1970s through 1990s under Gene Autry, who was at least a beloved legend. Moreno's mandate that all front-office employees wear polo shirts that CBS Sports derided as "awful, collegiate” things reeks of a Napoleonic complex. Moreno, never one to talk to the media, has even become a recluse among fans, showing what a thin-skinned man he's become–which makes him a perfect candidate for our Scariest People issue next month.
And now comes word that Moreno is trying to strong-arm the city of Anaheim into giving him a favorable lease on aging, tacky Angels Stadium that would allow him to profit from any development in the area around the stadium. A bad baseball owner AND a welfare king? Give us Magic, who just might one day run for mayor of Los Angeles.
Oh, and my favorite team? The Chicago Cubs–which just made this list laughable.